The benches at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville are along the end lines, not the sidelines. This is somewhat akin to putting the dugouts at a baseball park beyond the center field fence.
Vandy's bizarre gym layout offers a positive and a negative. The positive: Each coach is just a few feet from his players as they go to the basket in the second half. The negative: Each coach is 100 feet from his players as they go to the basket in the first half.
Given this imposing distance, communication between coach and players can be a serious problem in the first half. How serious? Consider this: On his initial trip to Memorial Gym last year, Tennessee's Bruce Pearl saw his team shoot just 28.0 percent from the floor en route to a 31-21 halftime deficit. With their coach nearby, though, the Vols bounced back in the second half to shoot 47.1 percent and outscore Vandy 47-28 to win 68-59.
Pearl readily admits that the layout of Vanderbilt's Gym provided quite a challenge last year.
"Yeah, and I think it showed in the first half," he said. "We struggled offensively."
The Vols could struggle again Wednesday night in Nashville, since they start a freshman point guard, Ramar Smith, who counts on a lot of help from the UT bench.
"This will be a lot more responsibility on the point guards," Pearl said, "because they'll have to do some play-calling down at the other end when I can't get to them."
Still, the Vol coach has confidence that Smith and Dane Bradshaw have enough savvy to run the first-half offense with minimal assistance from him. Noting that they combined for 16 assists and just 3 turnovers in Sunday's defeat of Mississippi State, Pearl added: "Dane and Ramar are playing very productively at the position. That (layout) is a challenge playing at Memorial Gymnasium but it's a challenge that everybody has to face."
Bradshaw, a senior who will be making his fourth visit to Memorial Gym, concedes that the facility is "very different," adding: "I think it's all about communication with your bench. It can be a huge advantage on one end and a disadvantage on the other.
"So often, you're looking to your bench for advice and play calls – even on the defensive end, when you see a set and the bench is calling out what play is coming. We're going to have to be prepared as a team and get off to a good start."
Bradshaw easily could be 3-0 at Memorial Gym. He was part of Vol teams that lost close games there in 2004 (61-58) and 2005 (67-62). He believes the key is not letting the gym's unusual layout become a distraction.
"We've been able to deal with it," he said. "Vanderbilt's more used to it than anybody but they have to face the same thing."
That's a fact. They do things a little bit differently in Commodore Land.